What is the Most Accurate Short Description of a Christian? #265 Hint: It’s not: Too Blessed to Be Stressed!
Happy Thursday, friends. I need to start off the show with a PSA, which is not normal, but I feel like the situation is so important that it warrants an exception. As you probably know, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. And in the spirit of forewarned being forearmed, I need to let you know of a crime that I have never heard of, which is a surprise because I went to criminal justice graduate school, and was training to be an FBI agent when I got called into ministry. I am still now very much into true crime and mysteries, fiction and non-fiction, and this one caught me be surprise. I could have been sentenced to jail for over a decade, and I’d have NO Idea. Today Alaskan dentist Seth Lookhart was sentenced to ten years of jail for operating on a patient while on a hoverboard. When I shared this with a fellow pastor friend, he asked an important and insightful question: was the patient on the hoverboard, or the dentist? Great question, Pastor David! It was the dentist on the board…the patient was unconscious. So, the good dr was sentenced to twelve years in jail for this and other, “unlawful dental acts.” If there is ever a phrase that can send a chill down your spine, it is “unlawful dental acts.” I’m scared enough of lawful dental acts…I can’t imagine unlawful ones. So – point being – DO NOT operate on somebody while on a hoverboard and watch out for unlawful dental acts. You’ll thank me later.
Today’s Bible readings include 2nd Samuel 13, Psalms 65-66, Ezekiel 20 and 2nd Corinthians 6. We have talked before about how 1st and 2nd Samuel is absolutely loaded with violence and crimes and assaults and all sorts of horrid and fascinating and terrible things, but honestly – today takes the cake. It’s really awful, what happens in this passage. Just terrible. Phoebe: Maybe skip this chapter. By the way, this is not a critique of the Bible – of course – this is just an acknowledgment that the Bible gives a very accurate, disturbing and authentic view of humanity and depravity. The terrible things that happen in 2nd Samuel are sin and evidence of separation from God, ignoring His commands, and following one’s heart, which is exactly what Amnon does when he rapes his sister. These are warning narratives. Thankfully, we’ll not focus on 2nd Samuel 13 today, but 2nd Corinthians 6. 2nd Corinthians is probably the most underrated book in the Bible, I think. It is absolutely filled to the brim with powerful truths, deep wisdom, and encouraging spiritual treasures. It is also accurate to real life and not a bunch of fluff. I talk about Christian sunshine-pumpers from time to time, and a Christian sunshine pumper is far worse than a dishonest used-car salesman. If you encounter a dishonest salesman, the worst that can happen is that you end up with a lemon car and a lot less money. That’s bad, but far worse to buy into a completely false and cheerily happy description of Christianity. There are people that have built huge ministries and churches and media empires by promise blessing upon blessing, and wealth, health and prosperity to boot. I believe that God heals. I believe in the gift of healing. I believe miracles still happen, and the Western church misses out so often because of little faith and unbiblical theology. I believe that God blesses people on earth and in Heaven who follow His ways and live by His commands. And I believe that NOBODY could actually read the teachings of Jesus, Paul and the New Testament and come away with a rosy and hunky-dory, “too blessed to be stressed; too anointed to be disappointed” view of life. No way. We are promised tribulation, trials, trouble and pain. The best people in the New Testament – those closest to God – did not skate past trials and tribulations while the scum-buckets fell into it…the best and Godliest sometimes suffered the worst! That is authentic Christianity. Following Jesus is filled with troubles on this earth…following Jesus is blessed by eternal rewards too amazing to even comprehend. And, yes – there are times of great blessing in this life too. I pray, believe and stand on Psalms 27:13, “I am certain that I will see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.”
But His goodness sometimes means trials and suffering, and they are a gift producing good things in our lives. Following God on earth is wrought with deep peace and comfort, soul-rending trials and tribulations, and glorious hope of the return of the King and life-everlasting with Him in a place of no death, suffering or sorrow. And that is why I believe that the best and most authentic and accurate short description of the Christian life is found in our passage today. Let’s read it, and see if you can pick it out somehow.
as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;
2 Corinthians 6:10
That is what it means to be a Christian. it is sorrowful for a time, but we are always rejoicing in that past goodness of God, the present goodness of God and the future goodness of God.
Let’s close with Spurgeon:
JOY is the normal condition of a believer. His proper state, his healthy state, is that of happiness and gladness. As I have often reminded you, it has become a Christian duty for believers to be glad. “Rejoice in the Lord,” is a precept given to us over and over again, and I believe that, broadly speaking, the general condition of God’s people is one of joy. It is not a falsehood if we say, “Happy art thou, O Israel!” True Christians are the happiest people under heaven. They have many sorrows, but there is a text which says, “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing;”…
I will venture to assert that Christians, at least, always have matter for joy. They are never short of material out of which they may make melody unto the Lord. If they will, they may rejoice, for they have plenty of causes for joy. The Lord hath done great things for them, and they ought to add, “whereof we are glad.” And, as they have plenty of matter for joy, so they have ample motive for joy; for when they joy and rejoice, they glorify God, they prove the reality of their faith, and they make their religion attractive to others.
The joy of the Lord is their strength, their beauty, their charm. There are always reasons why a Christian should be happy, and as he has matter for joy, and motive for joy, so he always has a measure of joy. He may seem to be overwhelmed with trouble, but his barque still floats. He may seem to run short of joy, as the widow in Elijah’s day ran short of meal and oil; but there shall always be a cake for him to eat, and a little oil shall still remain in the cruse. His joy shall never utterly fail him; he shall always have a sufficient measure of hope to enable him to keep his lamp alight in the darkest night.
Above and beyond all this, the Christian always has a remainder of joy which shall be his in due time. What he has not yet in his own hand, is in the pierced hand of Jesus, held there fast and safe against all comers; and he may and he should always sing,—
“Glory to thee for all the grace
I have not tasted yet.”
Some people have but little in possession at present, but they have a reversionary interest in a large estate; and it is so with us. We have a heritage of joy that as yet we have not entered upon; but it is ours by a covenant of salt, and none can break the sacred entail. So let us again take up the language of the hymn we sang at the beginning of the service,—
“The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets,
Before we reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.”
C. H. Spurgeon, “Joy in Place of Sorrow,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 43 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1897), 325–326.